Boston-based analyst firm Aberdeen Group has warned Novell that it cannot rely on superior technology to compete against Microsoft - it must overhaul its marketing.
Robert Sakakeeny, Aberdeen?s director of field research, delivered the blunt message to Novell bosses as part of a comparative review of Novell and Microsoft products and strategies. While generally applauding Novell?s products, he criticised the company?s marketing.
?Good marketing overwhelms good product every time,? he said. ?Companies like Novell have a hard time accepting this. Microsoft does well because it understands that no matter how good the product is, if the message doesn?t get out there to the right customers then it doesn?t matter.?
The main problem faced by suppliers like Novell is learning how to sell to business buyers, rather than technical personnel. Other companies, like Sun Microsystems, have learnt to make this transition, he said, citing Java as a prime example.
?Sun has built up such an aura around Java that business people understand that it is something good, even if they don't understand what it does.? Sakakeeny said it was Aberdeen Group?s opinion that Novell had the right technology to exploit the business drivers for the late 1990s, particularly in the area of directory services where IntranetWare has a clear technical lead over Microsoft?s NT Server.
?But do customers care? That?s the critical question Novell has to answer,? he added. ?It has to communicate the benefits of directory services to business customers in a language that they can understand. That?s something that Microsoft does very well.?
Novell also has the technology advantage in the groupware market with GroupWise, according to Sakakeeny, but again is losing out to Microsoft. ?Groupwise is a better product than Microsoft Exchange, but far too few business customers know it. Microsoft has a product with less credibility, but with a good marketing machine behind it.?
Sakakeeny concluded by offering some advice to Novell strategists. ?Systems and network management is becoming more important. Novell should promote ManageWise as much as GroupWise because that?s where the new money?s going to come from.?
He also had some tips on what Novell needed to look for in its search for a new chief executive officer. In effect, the company needs to find someone who has the gravitas to reassure the stock market and the industry that Novell is in safe hands, but also needs someone - ?a Steve Jobs bomber figure? - who can act as the attention-grabbing public face of the firm.
Novell?s vice-president of sales Ron Heinz had previously announced an increased marketing, advertising and PR spend for 1997, particularly in Europe, in a bid to improve its mindshare among customers.
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